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When East meets West on the stage: Shakespeare and Tang Xianzu

Updated: 2016-09-22 09:20:03

( chinadaily.com.cn )

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A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough made a splash in Beijing Tuesday. Students from Leeds University performed a contemporary adaptation based on the Chinese ancient play Nanke Ji. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin]

William Shakespeare, the renowned British playwright whose dramas are known across the world; and Tang Xianzu, the famed ancient Chinese opera writer with his works passed on through generations. What happens when the masterpieces of these two are put together?

A cross-cultural drama project "Shakespeare-Tang project: Celebrating a 400 year legacy", which made a splash in Beijing Tuesday evening, answers just that.  

The project, held by the University of Leeds in the UK and International Business and Economics (UIBE) in China, brings a new artistic creation "A Midsummer Night's DREAMING Under the Southern Bough" onto the stage, connecting Shakespeare's classic A Midsummer and Tang Xianzu's Nanke Ji in a unique way, to mark the 400th anniversary of the deaths of the two legendary playwrights.

The performance, consisting of two plays performed by student groups from two universities, is inspired by the common element of the two original texts -- "dream". In the adaptation, the UIBE team has changed the location of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream from woods near Athens to a Chinese milieu, with new modern plots that reflect Chinese young people's lives and that question the nature of love. Meanwhile, the production team from Leeds University has redesigned the original plots of Tang Xianzu's Nanke Ji opera without damaging its story flame and theme, creating a contemporary response to the Chinese classic play.

"We've made many changes during the production of the new play," said Li Ruru, curator and producer of the project and professor of Chinese Theatre Studies at Leeds University, "and the hardest part is to tell a complete story within just one hour". That’s despite complexity in the original drama and huge cultural differences.

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